Apple, Photography

Migrating from Apple Aperture to Google Photos

In the middle of 2014, Apple announced they were ceasing further development of Aperture, the company’s professional photo management application I had been using to catalog and post-process my images since 2005.

Aperture continued to work in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and it works more or less under OS X 10.11 El Capitan. All bets are off for OS X 10.12, so I have finally decided to take stock of my options for migrating away from Aperture. I had compiled quite a library of tagged, annotated, and organized images since I started taking digital photographs in 1999 with an Agfa ePhoto 1680, a 1.3 megapixel camera with a swivel lens).

I use iCloud Photo Library, and the majority of images there are from my iPhone camera. I have over 174,000 images in my Aperture Library totaling 1.68TB in size and only a handful of those photos have made it into my iCloud Photo Library. Apple doesn’t offer a storage tier greater than 1TB (I have the 200GB plan), but I don’t think I would sign up even if they did. As much as I like the idea of having all of my images in Photos and accessible from all of my devices, I am concerned about the performance hit of such a large library.

Exporting over 174,000 photos from Aperture took three days.

Last week, I exported all of the images in Aperture to JPEG files, a process that took three days. Last year, I purchased my 2015 Retina 15″ MacBook Pro without the discrete graphics chips expressly because I have had two laptops crap out due to overheating chipsets. The fans were on 24/7 for the entire export time, and the battery was actually discharging very slowly even though the computer was plugged into power. Knock on wood, but I hope I didn’t cause my laptop’s motherboard any permanent harm!

A little over one hundred thousand images remaining to upload.

Right now, I am uploading all of my images to Google Photos. The service offers unlimited storage if the images are downsized to 16MP. That’s a fair tradeoff for me, since I already keep multiple offsite backups of my RAW images. I am also very interested in the automatic tagging of photos, animated GIFs and panoramas that Google Photos offers. I have spent probably months manually adding metadata to my images; I am ready for a machine to do the job for me now. Yes, there are privacy concerns about giving Google access to my photos, but as with the megapixel limit, I am at peace with the tradeoff at the moment.

I did not get around to making each RAW image perfect before exporting a high-resolution JPEG in Aperture; that would have taken forever. I figure if I come across a photo in Google Photos that needs adjusting, I could edit it in Google Photos itself or open the original in Aperture (if it’s still working, otherwise Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), dicker with it, and re-upload it to Google.

I did consider other options before choosing Google Photos, such as SmugMug and Upthere. While the megapixel limit is higher in SmugMug, there is a 5,000 images per gallery limit; I didn’t want to spend the time right now to upload my photos in 5,000 file chunks. I have some friends who work at Upthere, but I haven’t found the time to use the product. Upthere is also a startup in a space where there’s been much consolidation, and I can’t speak to its long-term prospects. While Google’s track record with new products hasn’t been the best, I don’t think Google Photos will go the way of Google Wave or Picasa; I feel reasonably confident that it will be around in some form or another for the next decade.

As far processing and organizing my RAW files moving forward, I am still looking at DAM and RAW processing products. There’s Lightroom, but I have never warmed up to its file organization system. I used to use Capture One, but I am hesitant to plunk down a few hundred dollars and have to upgrade every few years (something I’d have to do with Lightroom too). Knowing me, I’ll probably continue to poke along with Aperture until the software finally dies or until I buy a camera that Aperture doesn’t support. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II is almost 8 years ago, but it still gets the job done. That’s one piece of technology that has lasted the test of time thus far!

Aperture, Apple, Journal, Tech

MacBook Pro, Aperture, and 30-inch Displays

I recognize that this blog has become very technical lately. Forgive me, ever since I was a kid in San Diego playing Ultima I through V on the home Apple ][ computer, I’ve always wanted to talk computer stuff!

Today, I tested the performance of the MacBook Pro hooked up to my Apple 30-inch Cinema Display. One reason why I chose the Pro over the regular MacBook or the Air was that it could drive a 30-inch display (2560×1600 resolution). The laptop features a Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of RAM; the newer Penryn-powered MacBook Pros have the same video chipset except with 512MB of video RAM. As you would expect, more video RAM typically equals better performance, especially with applications that make use of Mac OS X’s Core Image.

As I’ve known for two-years and counting, Aperture is one of the most GPU-intensive apps I’ve come across. My Quad G5’s beefy 7800GTX 512MB video card — an after-market upgrade that I purchased following my supreme disappointment with the stock 6600 card — has greatly increased the speed of Aperture’s editing adjustments. There’s only a slight delay when changing white balance, exposure, vibrancy and contrast during full-screen edits. Certain adjustments like levels and especially highlights and shadows are a little jerky, but the speed is acceptable.

Aperture Maximized

With Aperture maximized or in full-screen mode, the MacBook Pro starts to struggle when only a few adjustments (WB and Exposure) have been turned on. Don’t even think about using highlights and shadows at fullscreen! Reducing Aperture to its minimum window size results in excellent performance with every default adjustment turned on (WP, Exposure, Enhance, Levels, Highlights and Shadows, and Color).

Aperture at minumum window size

At fullscreen on a 30-inch display, four megapixel images are being displayed and manipulated in real-time by Core Image! A 24-inch Cinema Display would force the GPU to deal with a 2.25 megapixel image. At its minimum window size, Aperture only has to deal with images that are roughly 825×550, less than half a megapixel.

Having a big view of the image is great; that’s why I bought the 30-inch display in the first place. Performance is also very important, so you can be sure that the window size is getting reduced when I’m editing images on the MacBook Pro.

A great source for Aperture speed tips can be found on Steve Weller’s Bagelturf website. The list was originally compiled for Aperture 1.5, but most of them are still valid with Aperture 2.1.

Aperture, Apple, Journal, Photography

Migrating from Aperture 1.0 to 1.5 to 2.1


I’ve been using Aperture since version 1.0. When the application was released in 2005, all images had to reside within the Aperture Library. This did not prevent me from using the product, but it was deal-breaker in terms of switching to Aperture completely from iView Media Pro. Version 1.5 was released a year later, and it allowed users to store the master images by reference. This was great for me, since I could now import all of my images by reference and keep the annotations synced with iView using Annoture.

When Aperture 2.0 was released a few months ago, I decided to make a permanent switch to using Aperture as my primary photo organization tool. For

Projects can now contain 100,000 images, which is great since I was running into the 10,000 image limit in 1.5.6. Image editing plug-in support in version 2.1 means Noise Ninja from Picture Code is coming soon to Aperture.

My goal is to have my entire image collection — work and personal — contained in a single Aperture Library. I know other people who use multiple libraries, but I wanted a single one so I can easily share photos via iLife and sync to my iPhone.

This post is my odyssey to Aperture’s Promise Land. Does it exist? If so, will I get there? Read on to find out the issues I have to overcome along the way!

Continue reading

Aperture, Apple, Photography

Aperture Caption and Aperture Caption Palette

Interesting, there’s a free AppleScript-based app from Apple called Aperture Caption Palette. This slick mini-app looks suspiciously like my own Aperture Caption AppleScript that I wrote in the beginning of February.

If only I knew what things are in development at Apple, it would save me a lot of time writing duplicate products!

Aperture, Apple, Tech

Aperture Benchmarks between Quad G5 and MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro (MBP) is my first Intel Macintosh. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using a Quad G5 as my primary machine and a first-generation PowerBook G4 12-inch for travel. Before I purchased the Quad G5 in 2005, my desktop was a Quicksilver PowerMac G4, purchased in 2001. Though the PowerMac G4 ran at the same speed (867MHz) as the PowerBook (purchased in 2003), it was faster overall due to a better graphics card, more RAM, and a faster hard disk.

It’s been two years, and here I am with a new MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, it’s not the new Penryn-powered MBP; I was on a plane to Hong Kong just days before the new ones were released. Once there, there was no way to take advantage of Apple’s 14-day return policy.

With a little time on my hand, I wanted to see if the MacBook Pro’s performance was up to par with the last of the great PowerPC Macintoshes. In addition, I’ve been curious for some time about about Aperture’s performance on Intel and Motorola PowerPC chips.

I conducted three tests using Aperture 2.0.1 and a sample library containing twenty RAW photos from an 8 megapixel Canon EOS 1D Mark II. Ten of the images had no adjustments, keywords, or metadata applied to them. The other ten images had keywords and metadata, in addition to white balance, exposure, enhance, and edge sharpening adjustments.

My Quad G5 features 6GB RAM, an Nvdia GeForce 7800GTX with 512MB of RAM, and a 750GB Seagate internal SATA hard drive. The MacBook Pro has 4GB RAM, an Nvdia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of RAM and a 160GB Hitachi internal SATA hard drive.

All tests were performed four times, and the results are averaged in the tables below:

Test 1: Export Ten Non-Adjusted Images to 16-bit TIFF

For the first test, I selected the ten images that had no adjustments and exported them to 16-bit TIFF files. Normally, this isn’t something I would do, but I wanted to see how fast Aperture could export without doing much processing.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 25.30 2.53
MacBook Pro 28.80 2.88

Not bad. The MacBook Pro more than held up against the mighty Quad-core PowerMac in this test with the Quad coming in at 12% faster over the MBP. Since I don’t often export the files without performing any adjustments, I am more interested in the results from the next test.

Test 2: Export Ten Adjusted Images to 16-bit TIFF

Each image had its white balance, exposure, enhance, and edge sharpening adjusted. This is a better test, because the computer’s CPU has to perform additional calculations before exporting the image. If I had another video card for the Quad G5, I could see whether or not the GPU made a difference. In my Quad, I am using a reflashed Nvidia 7800GTX with 512MB of RAM. The original stock 6600GT card was such a dog that it’s no longer in my possession.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 91.38 9.14
MacBook Pro 117.10 11.71

The Quad G5 is 22% faster than the MacBook Pro. When exporting hundreds or even thousands of photos, every percentage point counts. For a typical wedding shoot, I might be exporting 1000 images. The Quad G5 would take two and a half hours, whereas the MBP would take an additional forty five minutes.

Test 3: Export 1024 x 1024 JPEG

Exporting a web-sized or preview sized JPEG is a common task for me. Here I exported the ten adjusted images to fit within a 1024 x 1024 pixel box.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 87.95 8.80
MacBook Pro 122.28 12.23

I was a little surprised by this score. While the Quad was faster at exporting an 8-bit JPEG over a 16-bit TIFF file, the MacBook Pro was slower. Exporting 1000 images, the Quad would take 2:26:00 while the MBP would take nearly an hour longer at 3:24:00. I wonder if the Quad was created the JPEG from its pre-generated preview image.

So, after two and a half years, the Quad G5 can still hold its own against a MacBook Pro. The gap might be a tiny bit closer, however, with the new Penryn-powered MacBook Pros. I’m curious to see how much faster the Dual 3.2GHz Quad-Core “Harpertown” MacPro is compared to the Quad. The MacPro would have to be twice as fast as the Quad before I would even consider upgrading. When I went from the Quicksilver to the Quad G5, I saw a 600% speed increase in RAW processing performance. Yes, the Quicksilver took about a minute to process one RAW file!

Another test I’ve been conducting is power per watt. With a Kill-A-Watt power meter, the MacBook Pro is well ahead of the Quad G5, which is one power-hungry computing beast!

Aperture, Apple, Photography

Aperture 2.0 Released

Aperture 2.0

Speak of the devil! Just days after I write Aperture Caption to help users of Aperture 1.5.2 to quickly caption images, Apple announces Aperture 2.0. One of the 100 new features is Metadata entry shortcut, described below:

Metadata entry shortcut

When adding or modifying metadata entries, press Command-Right Arrow (or Command-Left Arrow) to advance to the next (or previous) image. The cursor remains in the same metadata field, expediting the process of making metadata edits as you move from image to image.

I just tested Aperture Caption and it still works in the Aperture 2.0 Trial. In fact, because the script automatically moves you to the next image, it’s actually a little faster than hitting Command-Right Arrow in Aperture 2.0. Either way, Aperture users, you have a choice!

In addition, Aperture 2.0 has the ability to adjust a photo’s date and timestamp after import. My program, Timeature provided this ability, but it did not modify the master image, just the records in the Aperture database.

Adjust time/date offset

Adjust the timestamp assigned to each photo by your camera at the time of exposure and embed the changes in the original master image files.

I’ll have to check if there have been any changes to the AppleScript support for my other application, Annoture, which provided metadata copying capabilities between Aperture and iView Media Pro.

Apple also lowered the price of Aperture to $199, but they are charging existing owners $99 to upgrade.

Aperture, Photography

Aperture Caption AppleScript for Effortless Captioning

Update 2008-03-28: In conjunction with Aperture 2.1, Apple has released a free AppleScript-based app for captioning called Aperture Caption Palette. Check it out.

I’ve been using Aperture as my primary RAW processor for quite some time now. One thing that has been bothering me and others is the lack of a keyboard shortcut to edit the captions of successive photos. This is one reason why I’m still using iView Media Pro to handle annotating my images — it’s much faster to annotate photos using the keyboard in iView.

Since we all can’t wait for Aperture 2.0 to fix all of our problems with the app, I finally found an hour this evening to come up with a quick captioning solution. Aperture Caption is a free AppleScript that makes it really easy to caption your images one after another. You don’t even have to touch the mouse!

Aperture Caption is a free AppleScript that makes it easy to caption and keyword images in Aperture using just the keyboard.

  1. Download Aperture Caption
  2. Decompress the archive and install it in the following location:

    ~/Library/Scripts/Aperture Scripts/

  3. Make sure that you have the Scripts menu activated by running the AppleScript Utility application in the /Applications/AppleScript folder.

    AppleScript Utility

  4. Launch Aperture and select an image you wish to caption
  5. Choose Aperture Caption from the Script > Aperture Scripts menu.

    Aperture Caption in Script Menu

  6. Aperture Caption display the following dialog box on launch:

    Aperture Caption Welcome

  7. Click Captions Only to only add captions to your images. Click Captions & Keywords if you want to add both captions and keywords to your images.

    Enter your caption

  8. After entering your caption, click OK or press Return. If you launched Aperture Caption using the Captions & Keywords, another dialog prompt will appear allowing you to enter keywords for the current photo.
  9. Enter keywords for this photo

  10. Aperture Caption will then caption and keyword your image, replacing any existing caption or keywords in the image.
  11. Aperture Caption will now go to the next image until you hit Cancel.

    Aperture Caption will automatically go to the next image until you hit Cancel


If you want to add a keyboard shortcut for Aperture Caption, download FastScripts Lite from Red Sweater Software. The standard Scripts Menu in Mac OS X does not let you assign a keyboard shortcut using the Keyboards and Mouse System Preference.